Originally created 11/23/05

Minter goes against Georgia Tech's star receiver



ATHENS, Ga. - A cornerback must have bravado, a short memory and absolutely no fear of failure.

DeMario Minter fits the mold, which is why he's been looking forward to this game for an entire year.

On Saturday, Georgia's senior cornerback will get another crack at Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech's wondrous receiver. Never mind that Minter must shut down a guy who's 4 inches taller and some 30 pounds heavier, blessed with dazzling speed and hands that seem dunked in glue.

"Yeah, I've been thinking about it," Minter said. "I've been thinking about it since last year."

And what's been going through his mind?

"I've been thinking of ways to stop him," Minter said, breaking into a nervous grin, "because he's hard to stop."

Hard to stop, indeed. If one could order up the perfect receiver, the package that arrived at the door would very much resemble Johnson, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound sophomore who runs the 40 in 4.3 seconds and has a 43-inch vertical leap.

Johnson is coming off a six-catch, 89-yard performance against Miami in which at least half the receptions should go straight to the highlight video. A full-extension dive to snare a pass that appeared overthrown. Leaping high to make a catch along the sideline and somehow coming down with a foot inbounds. Reaching back across his body to pluck a ball out of the air.

Minter knows he won't have much success against Johnson without getting plenty of help from his teammates. More specifically, the No. 13 Bulldogs need to get pressure on quarterback Reggie Ball.

"Really, getting to Reggie Ball is the only way to stop (Johnson)," Minter said. "When the ball is in the air, Calvin is going to get it."

Don't take that deferential assessment as a sign of weakness. Minter isn't conceding anything to Johnson.

"I really try not to think about all the great plays he's made," Minter said. "I just worry about myself. If I stay low in my backpedal, do all the correct things I know I can do, I'll be fine."

Johnson has 50 catches for 855 yards and five touchdowns, even though he is usually double-teamed and has faced all sorts of trick defenses designed to keep the ball out of his hands. He has at least four receptions in every game but one and had gone past 100 yards in three contests, leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in average yards receiving (85.5).

"He's in the top five of guys I have faced," Minter said. "His ball skills, the way he moves his body to catch the ball. Still, the most unbelievable catch I've seen is that one-handed catch he made against North Carolina State last year, the one where they called him 'Spider-Man.'"

Minter had his hands full when he went against Johnson last season.

Playing on a sprained ankle, the cornerback limited Johnson to five catches for 44 yards but also was flagged for three pass interference penalties in Georgia's 19-13 win at Sanford Stadium.

Johnson has gotten stronger with another year in the weight room, so it's not as easy for cornerbacks to hold him up at the line or muscle him away from the ball.

"He's a nightmare for everyone in the country," coach Mark Richt said. "If you put it somewhere near him, he's going to make the play."

The Bulldogs are confident that Minter will make enough plays to extend their four-game winning streak over their state rival. He's started every game the past two seasons, making great strides to become a solid player in coverage though he does get a lot of ribbing from his teammates about having only one career interception.

"We had a lot of trust in DeMario," safety Greg Blue said. "He's going to go out there and play his game. He knows what he's got to do."

Minter knows that he'll likely play a key role in the game. If he can keep Johnson under control, the Bulldogs will be in good shape for another victory over Georgia Tech.

"I'm going to be out there a lot by myself," he said. "There's a lot of pressure on me. There's a lot of pressure on the whole secondary."